In the winter of 2020, as the world grappled with the challenges of a pandemic lockdown, long-time friends and collaborators John Popper and Jono Manson embarked on a creative journey that led to the birth of their new LP, Bootlegger Days!!. The album, steeped in classic Blues, R&B, and old-time Americana, was released on Sept. 15 and offers listeners a narrative of hard times, redemption and a pursuit of freedom on one’s own terms.
As the pandemic lingered, Popper and Manson decided to channel their restless creative energy into crafting an album that would capture the essence of the music they loved most. They started by writing a series of songs, including tracks like “Cover My Hands,” “Before the Heat Rolls In,” and “Beneath the Blood Wolf Moon.” What emerged from their efforts was a story about a hard-luck soul on the run from demons, including himself. The duo envisioned this character clad in a fedora and a slightly worn pin-striped suit, a nod to the Prohibition era.
The scenario from that era resonated with the uncertain state of the world during the pandemic. Much like the bootleggers of the past, the character in their narrative had to lay low and hunker down, missing out on the world’s excitement and action. The road and a fast car became not just tools of the trade but a means of escape and access to the wider world, mirroring the desire for freedom in a rapidly changing world.
Manson’s connection with Blues Traveler dates back to the inception of their career, and he has played an integral role in their musical journey. He appeared on their multi-platinum-selling album Four and was the front-man for the band High Plains Drifter, featuring Bobby Sheehan and Chan Kinchla from Blues Traveler. Manson also co-wrote and produced Popper’s side projects, including John Popper and the Duskray Troubadours (2011) and now Bootlegger Days!! (2023). Popper, in turn, contributed his talents to Manson’s Blue Rose debut, Stars Enough to Guide Me.
Along with the collaboration in the studio, Manson is set to join Popper and Blues Traveler for their fall U.S. dates. Learn more about their upcoming travels here.
The album is available on limited-edition colored vinyl, limited-edition autographed picture disc vinyl, standard vinyl, and compact disc; learn more about the LP here.
Listen to Bootlegger Days!! below.